copyright (c) 2006, Don Sakers

Hunt for the Dymalon Cygnet

By Don Sakers

Part 6

The Principles of Universal Worship

I. All faiths are equally valid.

It is right to respect the faith and beliefs of others.

It is right to obey the tenets of one’s own faith.

II. All faiths agree that there exists a Divine Universal Guiding Principle.

To different faiths, this Priciple has different Names and Attributes.

It is right to respect and venerate the Universal Principle, under whatever Name.

III. All faiths agree on certain moral canons. To willfully break these canons is sin.

1. One must honor and respect the Universal Principle.
2. One must honor and respect the faiths and beliefs of others.
3. One must honor, respect, and obey the tenets of one’s own faith.
4. One must respect and obey those in authority.
5. One must be honest.
6. One must be faithful to one’s promises.
7. One must not commit murder.
8. One must not steal.
9. One must not abuse power or authority.
10. One must not cause others needless harm.

— Council of Theologians
Colorado Springs, 2048 C.E.

United Nations of North America
August 28, 2068 C.E.

“…the fire of righteous vengeance wasted town and country…Horrible it was to see the foundation stones of towers and high walls thrown down bottom upwards in the squares, mixing with holy altars and fragments of human bodies.”

Gildas, c. 650 C.E.

Lunch is rice with beans and mixed vegetables, half of them reconstituted, along with plenty of cornbread. She wonders what Jannet Hoister will have to eat; fancy food at that fancy hotel, most likely. Certainly better fare than anything here. Probably better than anything Rita was likely to eat anytime soon.

Too soon, the lunch/socialization period is over. The rest of the day goes fairly smoothly: Literature/Composition, Physical Activity & Education, and Cultural Appreciation pass without incident, and then it is seventeen-fifteen and Rita releases her charges to go home, or to Evening Socialization until their parents to pick them up.

Rita goes to the Teacher’s Lounge to wait. The coffee is long gone, and cornbread leftover from lunch is going stale. She nibbles at a piece, more for something to do than from hunger, washes it down with bottled water from the cooler. A few other teachers wave at her as they pick up their things and head for home.

It isn’t long before Daisy whispers, “Principal Shamari is ready for you in his office.”

Regis Shamari’s office is hung with dozens of houseplants and strategically-placed mirrors, and a miniature fountain gurgles away atop a credenza; upon entering, Rita always expects to see errant chickadees darting about the room. For this evening’s meeting, six chairs are arranged in an ostensible circle, flattened by the room’s geometry so that the effect is of two facing groups of three, with about two meters between them. The style is carefully designed to appear casual and non-confrontational, while still preserving the vital essence of two opposing camps.

Shamari is already seated in the center chair on the right; David Boyd is seated in the opposite center, flanked by a couple of adults who are obviously his parents. Rita vaguely remembers them from earlier conferences.

Shamari half-rises, waving Rita in. “Mr. and Ms. Boyd, this is Ms. Cuervo. She’s David’s teacher.” He nods at the empty chair to his right.

Rita pauses with her hand on the door, shooting Shamari a questioning glance. He shakes his head. “Leave it open for now, please.”

As Rita passes the Boyds she nods to them, mumbling a greeting. Poor David seems petrified; she touches his shoulder and gives him what she hopes is a reassuring smile, then takes her seat.

Shamari clears his throat. “We’ll begin in a few moments. I want to thank you all for making time for this meeting; I think you’ll agree that it’s very important to get this matter smoothed out as quickly as possible.”

Boyd paterfamilias, a slender balding man who looks like a greengrocer or possibly a tax accountant, leans forward. “Now see here, Mr. Shamari, I won’t have—”

A knock at the open door stops him. A tall, stocky woman folds her arms across her chest and frowns, her thick, dark eyebrows meeting above her nose. She wears a military-looking uniform in ecclesiatical camouflage. “Good afternoon. I am Major Platner.”

Shamari stands. “Thank you for coming, Major.”

She brushes past him with a nod. “Of course.” She takes the empty seat, sitting the way a soldier stands at attention. “Let’s get started, shall we?” From a breast pocket, she produces a pair of dark data-spex and perches them low on her nose. Over the lenses, her brown eyes flick from one person to another. “Mr. Boyd, Ms. Boyd, young David. Principal Shamari, Ms. Cuervo. I see that everyone is here.”

Mr. Boyd opens his mouth, but Major Platner continues without any sign of noticing. “Denver District Four, Case number six eight stroke five seven two, Major E. Platner presiding. All parties are notified that this session is being recorded in accordance with regulations.”

Rita looks from Shamari to Platner and back again. “I…uh, I didn’t know that this was going to be an official…hearing.”

The Major raises an eybrow. “Indeed. There is no hearing yet. This is merely an investigation into certain allegations. As an Arm of God for this district, I am required to conduct an investigation prior to any official hearings or actions.” Her voice carries less emotion than the average vending machine’s verbalizations. “I assure you that no one is on trial here.”

Mr. Boyd sniffs. “We know what this is all about. It’s about the government trying to force my boy to say those heathen prayers in school.”

“Mr. Boyd, no one will be forced to say anything. Our goal here is simply to establish the facts. The sooner we get started, the sooner we can all go home.” She turns her attention to the boy. “David, I understand that you have refused to say class prayers. Is that correct?”

David looks at the floor. “Only the heathen ones, ma’am.”

“And which prayers are those, David?”

The boy’s father opens his mouth, but Platner silences him with an upheld hand. “Please, Mr. Boyd, I must hear David’s answer so that I can gauge the effectiveness of his education.” She nods. “Go ahead, David. Which prayers are heathen ones?”

“Ones th-that aren’t in the Bible.”

“David, are you familiar with the Principles of Universal Worship?”

The boy scowls. “Why, sure. I’m in fourth grade.”

“Would you mind quoting for me the Second Canon?”

In a singsong voice, David quotes, “’One must honor and respect the faiths and beliefs of others.’”

“Well done. In order to honor and respect other faiths and beliefs, you must first learn about them. In order to teach you about other faiths, we give you the opportunity to experience their prayers and devotions. Do you understand?”

Rita struggles to keep her face impassive. She’s tried this approach with David; privately, she wishes Platner more success than she’s had.

David shakes his head. “The Third Canon says to respect, honor, and obey the tenets of one’s own faith. Baptists believe it’s a sin to say heathen prayers.”

Platner’s eyebrows rise perhaps a millimeter. “And where did you learn that fact, young man?”

“From my parents. The Fourth Canon says—”

“I am aware of the content of the Fourth Canon, and I must say that you are at this moment treading close to violating it.” She looks to the parents. “Mr. and Mrs. Boyd, I am afraid that the advice you have given David is incorrect. You have caused him, and yourselves, to commit a grievous violation of the Canons.”

Mr. Boyd can obviously no longer contain himself. “Every word we’ve told him is true. We’re Baptists. We believe that Jesus is the one true Lord. We can’t allow David to say those heathen prayers.”

“You are mistaken on several counts. First, your denomination has ackowledged that the Canons take precedence over sectarian beliefs.”

“That’s a matter between us and the Lord.”

“Regardless, you are mistaken on an even more fun-damental point. You two are Baptists, but David is not. David will choose his religious affiliation at his Confirmation. Until then, he is bound only by the Canons.”

“Nobody’s going to force my boy to say—”

“That is enough, Mr. Boyd.” Major Platner turns to Rita. “Ms. Cuervo, do you confirm that this student, David Boyd, has repeatedly refused to join the rest of his class in the recitation of assigned prayers?”

What could she say? “Yes, but—”


She had to try. “In the few months he’s been here, David has always been polite and well-behaved. He completes all his work satisfactorily. Except for this matter of the prayers, I have had remarkably few disciplinary problems with him.”

Platner gives a single nod. “Your remarks have been noted. Principal Shamari, do you concur with Ms. Cuervo’s statements?”

“I do. All of them.”

Again the nod. “Noted as well.” Major Platner looks off to the left for a moment, then faces the Boyds. “This session is concluded. You will be notified of any further action.” She stands, moving toward the door.

Mr. Boyd pops up, grabs Platner by the arm. “Wait a minute here, you. My family isn’t going to be bullied by your officious—”

Platner’s other hand moves like a striking rattlesnake, two fingers closing on Boyd’s wrist, breaking his grip and moving his hand out of the way as if it were some distasteful bit of garbage that had landed on her arm. In the same emotionless tone, she says, “Mr. Boyd, I am professionally required to show restraint when dealing with civilians. I am not required to allow my person to be handled, nor to listen to emotional outbursts and tirades. I am equipped with nonlethal restraining technology, and I warn you now that I will not hesitate to utilize it at the next provocation. This session is concluded. If you have further comments or concerns, I suggest that you take them up with your minister or other ecclesiastical officials. Good day, sir.”

She strides out, and the door sighs shut behind her.

Boyd crumples to his chair, his face falling into lines of despair. “What are they going to do to us?”

For the first time, Mrs. Boyd speaks. Her voice is soft but strong, her tone defiant. “Don’t worry, Paul. The Lord will protect us. What can they do?”

“They can reduce our ration points. Or eliminate them altogether. They can transport us to one of the agricultural settlements. They can try to take David away from us.”

Mrs. Boyd puts an arm around David. “Nonsense. We have to have faith. God will provide.”

“Caitlyn, it’s faith that’s gotten us into this—”

“Hush. I won’t hear another word like that.” She stands, brushes nonexistent lint from her arm, and takes David’s hand. “Mr. Shamari, Ms. Cuevo, I suppose I can’t say ‘thank you,’ so I’ll just say good evening to you both.” She walks to the door, then looks back at her spouse. “Are you coming, Paul?”

Mr. Boyd follows her, glaring at Rita as he passes.

When they are gone, Shamari says to Rita, “I know that it’s been a very long day for you. I appreciate your staying for this meeting.”

“What will happen to them?”

He shakes his head. “That’ll be up to the authorities. It’s no concern of ours.”

Rita nods, and bids him good evening. But in the elevator on the way to the street, she can’t help thinking that he’s wrong.

A family is about to be punished, maybe transported. And it is a concern of hers.

When she reaches the school lobby, Daisy says, “A bus will arrive in three minutes. Do you wish to go straight home?”

“No.” She remembers Jannet Hoister’s invitation. “Where is the Time-Warner-Sheraton-Hilton?”

“Lawrence Avenue between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets. About eight blocks away.”

“All right. Tell the bus not to bother. I’ll walk.”



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